All I remember about the sermon is that the pastor wanted a Winnebago motorhome.
As he talked about how cool it would be to have a giant transportable abode, the pastor’s eyes were bright, his face animated.
But then he started disparaging his desire. I’m not sure of his exact words, but, as I recall, he said something along the lines of how ridiculous his desire was, asking, incredulously, “Why would God want me to have a Winnebago?” and ending with “It will never happen.” As he followed this train of thought, his face grew slack and serious.
I witnessed this little diatribe nearly 15 years ago, but when I think of it, I can still feel the weight of disappointment in the air.
Though the overall point of the sermon has been lost to me, I did retain the message that our desires are, at best, superfluous and, at worst, liable to get the way of what God really wants for us. That desire doesn’t matter.
Desire is a Good Thing
It came as a bit of a surprise (a relief, really) to me to learn that the Bible actually has a lot to say about our desires. A lot of good things. A big part of my learning came through John Eldredge’s book The Journey of Desire, which I first read when I was about 18 or 19.
Eldredge counsels us to notice how Jesus connects to people: “He is continually taking them back into their hearts, to their deepest desires.”
To a blind man Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).
To the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).
And to the woman at the well: “What do you thirst for?” (John 4, paraphrase).
Eldredge says, “To the weary, Jesus speaks of rest. To the lost, he speaks of finding your way. Again and again and again, Jesus takes people back to their desires: ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you’ (Matt. 7:7 NIV).”
Other verses in both the Old and New Testament speak to desire.
- “A desire fulfilled is a tree of life” Proverbs 13:12 (ESV). (Jesus came to give life, which is linked to fulfilled desire!)
- “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart's desires” Psalm 37:4 (NLT). (Why would He give us our hearts desires if they didn’t matter?)
And one of my favorite verses ever:
- “Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” Ephesians 3:20 (TLB).
God wants to do beyond what we can dream or imagine! Which tells me that dreaming, desiring, and imagining are good things!
Desire Invites Us into Our Calling
God wants to fulfill our desires, and when we ignore or demean our heart’s desires, we actually inhibit ourselves from fulfilling the calling God has given us.
In his book Dreaming with God Pastor Bill Johnson points out that many people, like Winnebago Pastor “discount their desires, automatically trying to get rid of everything they want in order to prove their surrender to God. Their selfless approach overshoots the will of God and actually denies the fact that God is the Father of the dreams and abilities within them.”
Johnson explains that, though it is true we enter God’s kingdom through the narrow gate—through abandonment to God and submission to His will—once we’re inside His kingdom, things are different. There, in abiding relationship with God, we are no longer servants but friends. It’s in the context of friendship that God makes this promise: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (John 15:7, NLT).
Our desires are not superfluous.
Rather, they play a vital role in revealing our calling and in drawing us into a love relationship with God in which we can work (co-labor) together to share His love with the world around us.
Bill Johnson says this :
“We are to pay attention to our desires while we’re enjoying the presence of God in prayer. Something happens in our time of communion with Him that brings life to our capacity to dream and desire. Our minds become renewed through divine encounter, making it the perfect canvas for Him to paint on. We become co-laborers with Him in the master plan for planet earth. Our dreams are not independent from God, but instead exist because of God…
As we grow in intimacy with Him, more of what happens in life is a result of our desires, not simply receiving and obeying specific commands from Heaven. God loves to build on our wishes and desires, as He embraced David’s desire for the temple.”
Going Deeper with God
Now, of course I’m not talking about desires that are immoral or contradictory to God’s Word.
This isn’t about being self-centered or finding excuses for doing things we know are wrong. (When we struggle with unhealthy desires, that’s a different kind of signal that our hearts are in need of healing. As Eldredge says, “When it comes to the moral question, it is not simply whether we say yes or no to desire, but always what we do with desire. Christianity recognizes that we have desire gone mad within us. But it does not seek to rectify the problem by killing desire; rather, it seeks the healing of desire, just as it seeks the healing of every other part of our human being.”)
This is about abiding in Christ and embracing our God-given passions, strengths, talents, skills, and dreams. Accepting your desires and dreams is part of accepting who you are. And because your calling is inextricably linked to who you are, in order to fulfill our calling, we must pay attention to our dreams and desires.
I can’t speak for Winnebago Pastor. But I wonder…perhaps his dream of a traveling around in a motorhome whispered of a core desire for adventure. Perhaps God was inviting him into an itinerant ministry opportunity, or maybe it was the expression of a need to get away for some rest and rejuvenation. I don’t know. But I do hope he found his way to embracing his God given desires, to letting them draw him into deeper relationship and co-laboring with God, rather than causing frustration and discouragement. I pray the same thing for you, my friend!
What desires do you have that might be clues to your calling? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!
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Taking our desires seriously is just one act that I think is necessary to discovering and walking in who we are created to be. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been sharing about what we need to do and believe in order to succeed in our purpose. Here's last week's post in case you missed it: Acceptance, A Key to Your Calling
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